A Company’s Legal Health Calls for Skills that Attorneys Lack — Ron Friedmann’s Take

In a recent blog post Ron Friedmann responded to a question posed in a legal technology publication:

“‘How do you envision the legal team of the future changing?’ The thesis of my answer: multidisciplinary teams ….

” … The complexity of the modern world makes many problems multifaceted. How many ‘legal problems’ are really business problems with a legal element?  Clients need lawyers to team with other professionals – and treat them as peers – for the best solution.

“A story from early in my legal market career illustrates the point. I had just arrived at a large firm to run practice support. A partner who knew I had a quant background asked me to help on a competition matter. A regional office of a regulator questioned our client’s action. It worried that many consumers would be adversely affected by a mistake it had made. I ran a simple time-series regression on the number of claimants to date. It showed a quickly diminishing curve. That is, a reasonable projection showed few new complaints would be filed. That one graph got the regulator to back off. That was a simple stats answer, not a legal’ answer.”

Ron Friedmann is a partner with Fireman & Company, “a legal industry-focused management consulting firm”. His credentials include distinguished qualifications as a lawyer (e.g., Order of the Coif / top 10% of his class at New York University Law School) and ex-Bain consultant. Like Jeff Carr, Ken Grady, and Mark Cohen previously featured in my posts, Friedmann has a stellar professional track record in both law and business.

Friedmann’s answer to the question, “How do you envision the legal team of the future changing?”:

I’ve long thought that for law firms to deliver more value to clients, they must work more effectively across disciplines. It’s not just about the law anymore. In the past, economists, communications specialists and a range of expert witnesses contributed to legal solutions. But it was incidental, not core. Skills beyond law are rapidly becoming core to legal service delivery. The outlines of that are already clear, with some firms hiring data scientists and AI (artificial intelligence) specialists. Increasingly complex business and legal problems mean this trend will continue and likely accelerate.

“Law firm talent wars today seem myopically focused on lawyers. The challenge of recruiting top legal talent pales in comparison to hiring top AI and data science talent. Both fields are growing explosively but the talent is not. Firms that want to win the war for that talent—even for consulting support—must eliminate the caste system. They must banish not just the term ‘non-lawyer’, but also the thinking behind and projected feelings from it.”

Jeff Carr tweeted in response to Ron Friedmann’s post:

“Right on point Ron — Customers want effective, efficient solutions. Who can provide them as defined by a guild [the legal profession] is definitively irrelevant to us, inefficient, and, well, irritating.”

As I explained in my earlier post entitled, “A Company’s Legal Health Calls for Skills that Attorneys Lack”, the legal industry has divided their disciplines into two categories: “Lawyer” and “Non-Lawyer”.

So for the moment Friedmann’s view is in the distinct minority among attorneys.

But his view better fits with the reality: Actually there are no “legal problems” in business — but “business problems” that may have a legal dimension.